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  Barnidge: Saving the Rain Forests and Ending Obesity are all in a Day's Work
October 24, 2013

I’m not sure why local columnists have all of a sudden declared it open season on Mayor McLaughlin. She’s not even up for reelection. In fact, she is termed out in 2014. First it was Chip Johnson, and now Tom Barnidge is piling on. If Richmond were going down the toilet while McLaughlin has been mayor, that would be one thing. But it’s not. During McLaughlin’s  administration:

  • Richmond’s crime rate has steadily decreased.
  • The Richmond unemployment rate has steadily dropped.
  • Commercial reals estate vacancies continue to drop while rents are going up.
  • Tax revenues in every category are increasing, except property taxes that took a major hit from the Chevron fire of 2012.
  • The Richmond City Council unanimously supported Chevron in its application to build its “Renewal Project.” Resolution 15-11, and Richmond signed onto a settlement of litigation with Chevron and Contra Costa County that resolved all of Chevron’s legal and administrative challenges to property taxes that resulted in no refunds by the City of Richmond.
  • Richmond’s Pavement Condition Index (PCI), a measure of the condition of its streets steadily increased.
  • Richmond’s semi-annual survey of residents shows steady improvement in quality of life and City services.

Let’s see, that covers crime, jobs, streets, quality of life, business, City services and Chevron, the corporate giant the pundits believe we should be sucking up to more.

Obesity? We just read in Barnidge’s paper that only one-third of California kids can pass a simple physical fitness test. In WCCUSD, 37% to 43% are at high risk and need improvement in “body composition” (read obesity). The mayor proposed a soda tax. Tom Barnidge, what are you doing about it?

That’s just a sampling. For a blow by blow, read the city manager’s Weekly Reports (City Manager's Weekly Report, The City Manager Weekly Report provides a brief update on City activities that have occurred the past week of interest to the community. It is generally posted every Monday. Report)
So, having racked up an enviable record of local accomplishments and improvement in the quality of life for Richmond residents, the mayor wants to engage in some “think globally, act locally” activities in her spare time, but Barnidge thinks that is going too far?
At least the mayor believes in something and is willing to go after it. All Barnidge can do is whine. Cutting him some slack, maybe that’s his job description. What’s he ever done for the earth? For the people of Richmond? Anyone can complain. Talk is cheap. At least Mayor McLaughlin is trying to make a difference.
Tom Butt
Barnidge: Saving the rain forests and ending obesity are all in a day's work
By Tom Barnidge Contra Costa Times Columnist
Posted:   10/23/2013 10:45:07 AM PDT | Updated:   a day ago

For those of us who relish harebrained crusades and the fuzzy-headed politicians who bring them to life, it will be a sad day in 2014 when Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is termed out of office.
That thought struck me while enjoying a four-column photo of the mayor that appeared last Wednesday on page B1. She was speaking from the steps of City Hall, framed by the puppet image of what appeared to be a giant Amazon tribesman, alongside a hand-lettered sign that read: "Standing with Ecuadoreans."
If there's one thing Richmond residents demand of their elected officials, it's that they protest the desecration of South American rain forests by oil companies that no longer exist.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin criticizes Chevron's treatment of indigenous tribes during a rally at the civic center in Richmond, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. McLaughlin and others recently traveled to Ecuador to see firsthand the environmental damage they say was caused by large oil companies. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
The mayor only recently returned from a six-day tour of Ecuador -- at the expense-paid invitation of the Ecuadorean government -- to examine the environmental devastation allegedly caused by the former Texaco oil company, which merged with Chevron in 1992. McLaughlin is the blood enemy of Chevron, which has had the audacity to refine oil and emit exhaust in her city for 111 years. Any chance to disparage it is not to be missed.
"What I saw brought home to me the importance of solidarity," she told reporter Robert Rogers, making Richmond and Ecuador sound like allies in a holy war. "We're all interconnected, and this is an international struggle against corporate domination."
That fervent, irrational fire is what separates McLaughlin from her contemporaries. You'll notice nobody invites the mayors of Concord or Pleasant Hill to Ecuador. Other East Bay city leaders think too provincially.
Antioch is consumed with adding police and fighting crime. Martinez is focused on revitalizing its downtown. Walnut Creek is merely trying to fund city services and balance its budget. McLaughlin sees Richmond as having far loftier goals.
Last year, it set out to end obesity -- what's bigger than that? -- by floating a doomed measure that would have taxed sugary drinks 1 cent per ounce. More recently, the mayor aimed to upbraid the mortgage industry through a tortured interpretation of eminent domain. Then she marched on Wells Fargo, even though it owned none of the underwater mortgages that fueled her fury.
The obvious challenge going forward is to find more fantastic wars to wage. You can command the spotlight only as long as the quests keep growing more improbable. Evel Knievel mastered this brand of showmanship.
She's tackled Big Soda. She's tackling Big Banks. She will never stop tackling Big Oil. But what will be the next Big Thing in her cross hairs? The mayor didn't ask for my help, but she'd be wise to follow Walnut Creek's lead by surveying residents. Let them select the next half-baked crusade.
To which of these important tasks would you like to see Gayle McLaughlin dedicate her remaining time as mayor?
a) Restoring the Arctic ice pack
b) Stamping out piracy on the high seas
c) Ending famine in Somalia
d) Reforesting the Sahara desert
e) Negotiating peace in the Middle East
Maybe she can try all five. She's not going anywhere until 2014. Then I dearly hope she runs for county supervisor, because I can't wait to hear her platform.
Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.
·  Malcolm Lubliner
Dear Mr. Barn-rage,
Your view of Gayle McLaughlin's role as misguided in her attempts to bring reason and justice not only to Richmond but to the indigenous communities in Ecuador, damaged by the oil industries' steamroller methods over many decades, is so transparently biased and twisted, I wonder if you don't often feel embarrassed. As a likely well funded supporter of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and it's greed driven causes, I suppose you're required to protest McLaughlin's work. I expect that you hotly resisted the attempt to tax sugar in soft drinks even if threatened the health of your own kids. Chevron is not a victim. Along with it's battery of over paid lawyers and well funded lipsinks like you, they've resisted paying their fair share of taxes for decades.
Truth is very gratifying. You should try it.
Ginger Grant
Wow, Tom, have you visited Richmond lately? I live here, and our city has improved enormously under McLaughlin's leadership. Homicides are way down, the city budget has been balanced, the UC lab is coming, and the city has finally stood up to Chevron. So what if the Mayor promotes an innovative approach to helping homeowners who are underwater? So what if she reaches out to an international community that is also embroiled in litigation with Chevron? I'm grateful for a Mayor who's courageous, visionary and willing to go out on a limb for her community. Your column's sarcasm is not only mean, but off the mark. Surely you can't prefer politicians who do nothing but preserve the corporate status quo? We've had elected officials of that type for decades in Richmond. Give us a break.
To understand the sleaze-side of Chevron, see, www.truecostofchevron.com.
Dave Roberts
Her next crusade should be against Big Crime.
Richmond rates 7 out of 100 in the U.S. crime index, meaning that it has more crime per capita than 93% of the nation's cities. Richmond residents are five times more likely to be murdered than the national average and more than twice as likely to be robbed or assaulted.
With that track record, McLaughlin might be a good fit to take over for Jean Quan after she's booted out as Oakland's mayor next year.

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